Foothill’s Jeff Pickler has been around baseball as long as he can remember and then some. In fact, he was holding a little rubber bat and ball in his first baby picture.
“What do you expect when your father is a coach?” said Pickler, the Knights’ senior second baseman.
So he has grown up with baseball. And now he’s matured into the game.
Pickler came of age last season. He hit .425 with seven doubles and 19 runs batted in for the Knights. Numbers that are a testament not only to talent, but also to hard work.
It was the result of a summer spent between the batting cages and the weight room. Pickler was always a solid player, but he became a quality one.
“He stepped forward,” Coach Gerry Sedoo said. “When he was a freshman, he obviously had the knowledge and desire. But he really put in the time to become better. He has a good work ethic. Obviously it comes from his home situation.”
Pickler is the son of Cypress baseball Coach Scott Pickler. He grew up around the baseball fields with his dad.
“He started playing as soon as he could pick up a bat,” Scott Pickler said.
Jeff Pickler began playing when he was 4. His father, who was working for Anaheim Parks and Recreation, signed Jeff up in a league for 6- to 8-year-olds.
Of course, things didn’t always go well between father and son.
“I was umpiring one game and Jeff tried to stretch a double into a triple,” Pickler said. “I called him out and he didn’t like that. He wouldn’t get off the bag.”
Said Jeff Pickler: “He tells that story all the time. I really don’t remember it. But I bet Dad blew the call.”
Still, there were plenty of benefits to having a father as a baseball coach. It gave Jeff Pickler not only someone to play catch with, like most fathers, but also a skilled coach to help correct flaws.
“He never really pushed me into the sport, but he was there to help,” Pickler said. “I think he might have been frustrated a little when I was younger because I didn’t want to go hit every day. But he knew I’d come around.”
He did when he entered Foothill.
Pickler got serious about the game as a freshman. He started hanging out with some of the older players and they helped him develop.
Pickler said Neil Garcia, now a catcher at Nevada, worked out with him almost every day.
“It gave me someone to hit with and lift with,” Pickler said. “He got me motivated.”
Pickler moved into the starting lineup last season. He began as the team’s No. 8 hitter, but quickly moved up in the order.
He hit second most of the season.
“Starting out in the eight spot really helped,” Pickler said. “I saw a lot more fastballs and built some confidence.
“I knew I could hit on the varsity level, but you’re never completely sure until you do it.”
Pickler was sure by the time the Knights played their season opener against Tustin. He went two for three against the Tillers, who eventually won the Southern Section Division III championship.
He finished as the team’s second-leading batter, behind David Trentine (.513). He also led the team in runs scored with 22.
What Pickler would like to improve on this season is the team’s record. The Knights finished last in the Century League a year ago.
“I can’t wait for this season to start,” Pickler said. “We worked hard during the winter. I think I hit every day.”
Which must have made Dad proud.
Said Jeff Pickler: “He might be my second toughest critic. After me.”
1993 In Review / Highlights
Foothill was the only team not in the race for a playoff berth heading into the final week of the season, as five teams finished within two games of each other. Canyon beat Orange three times, but the Comanches lost to Villa Park on the last day of the season and it cost them a share of the league title and the No. 1 berth into the playoffs. Still, Canyon reached the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division II playoffs. The Comanches upset No. 3-seeded Riverside Poly in the first round and then defeated Paramount. Canyon then lost to Temecula Valley. Orange, which had gone 1-14 in league play the previous season, also reached the quarterfinals. The Panthers defeated Manhatten Beach Mira Costa in the first round and Riverside Arlington in the second. They then lost to West Covina South Hills. Santa Ana Valley, the league’s co-champion, lost to Chino Don Lugo. . . . Orange’s Saul Archuleta was the league’s co-player of the year with Santa Ana Valley’s Martin Ortega. Ortega led the league in hitting with a .515 average. David Trentine of Foothill hit .513, James Jekums of Canyon hit .493, Jeff Pickler .425 and Archuleta .410. Trentine also drove in 28 runs and Ortega 25. Ortega also scored 25 runs. . . . Corey Cruz of Canyon was the league’s big winner as a pitcher. He went 9-2 with a 1.47 earned-run average. Scott Henderson of Villa Park may have been the league’s most talented pitcher. Henderson went 6-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 97 strikeouts. He beat Canyon with a three-hit, 11-strikeout performance in the season finale to cost the Comanches a share of the league title. Henderson, who is playing at USC, was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the middle rounds of the June amateur baseball draft.
League Overall School W L W L Orange 9 6 16 12 Santa Ana Valley 9 6 13 13 Canyon 8 7 16 12 Villa Park 7 8 12 13 El Modena 7 8 9 16 Foothill 5 10 10 15